It’s called the ADA, Donald. And it’s a law.
Trump may be very rich, but he is very unaware of a landmark disability rights law and the struggles people with disabilities go through to live as normal of a life as possible.
Since the Democratic National Convention, Donald Trump has been bragging about the things he’s done for the disabled community out of the bottom of his heart. Of course, his claims are bullshit. That’s not really surprising since that’s pretty much Donald Trump’s MO.
After Democrats repeatedly pointed out at the Convention that Donald Trump had mocked Serge Kovaleski in November, Trump felt the need to defend himself and his record on disability accommodations. In doing so, Trump has created more evidence of his ableist ways. He previously bragged about donating money to the ADA for disabled people, but the ADA isn’t an organization. It’s a law.
In 1990, Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act — the first civil rights act acknowledging the disabled community, providing it with protections, coming up with accommodations and programs to serve the community, and coming up with punishments for people who discriminated against disabled people. For twenty six years, the ADA has existed, in part, to make sure that businessmen like Trump don’t construct inaccessible buildings and hire people with disabilities instead of denying them access to employment because of their condition. For twenty six years, Donald Trump has been making accommodations for this group of people because he could be fined if he didn’t. Trump is not building ramps or elevators to make the disabled feel more included within society. He’s doing it because it is a government mandate and he can’t not do it.
And, guess what, he’s tried to not follow the law. I know, it’s a shocker that someone who has tried to get out of following laws that prevent discrimination against other marginalized groups would violate one protecting people with disabilities.
Donald Trump was cited in 2007 by the Department of Justice for his failure to make the Trump Taj Mahal fully accessible to disabled people. The violations ranged from lacking Braille on signs to buffets being designed at non-compliant heights and things being out of the reach range set by the federal regulations. When Itzel Hudek became pregnant while working for the Trump National Doral Miami Hotel, she didn’t expect to be fired for requesting accommodations be made so that she could go to doctor appointments; appointments that were not only important for her unborn child’s health, but for her own since she had a history of asthma, migraines, and heart disease. Hudek was fired and her position was given to someone who wasn’t pregnant, who had less experience, and who was making more than she did in the position. She sued Trump and a settlement was reached. Another lawsuit was filed by James Schottel, Jr. because applicants for The Apprentice were required to be in “excellent physical and mental health”, which prevented him from applying because he had suffered an accident that left him quadriplegic.
The Americans with Disabilities Act has helped people to fight actual injustices that Trump has committed against people with disabilities. He won’t brag about that, though, because it doesn’t make him look like the kind, decent person that he wants people to believe he is. It makes him look like a bully who picks on a group that he views as weak.
Trump’s lack of understanding of the disabled community could even be expanded to include disabled veterans. Whether he’s disregarding their contributions, choosing not to donate money until pressed to charities benefiting veterans, or he’s simply desiring the medals they’ve been awarded because of their service, Trump has shown America and the world that he has no regard for the well-being of people who have been disabled by wars.
His attacks on John McCain as an example of his utter disregard of some disabled Americans. McCain was permanently disabled after being shot down in Vietnam almost fifty years ago. He has had continuous issues with his once-shattered knee, as well as his shoulders — both arms were broken in Vietnam. Fifty years of pain and being unable to do things that most people take for granted, but his suffering earned Trump’s wrath.
When Trump skipped out on a debate and claimed to raise money for veterans groups, he managed to not donate that money until around four months later. He bragged repeatedly about his fundraiser raising $6 million to help veterans, while he was failing to actually send the money to veterans. The media had to pressure Donald into sending that money, and he still managed to avoid making at least some of the actual donations. And when his donations didn’t get him the requisite shower of affection from the press, Trump had one of his typical tantrums.
“He said, ‘That’s my real Purple Heart. I have such confidence in you.’ And I said, ‘Man, that’s, like, that’s, like, big stuff.’ I always wanted to get the Purple Heart. This was much easier.”
Even Trump’s excitement earlier this week over receiving a copy of Purple Heart from a veteran showed that Trump doesn’t fully grasp what it means to be disabled or to have had grave injuries. The medal is only given to people who are injured in military action or to the families of people who died during them. Representative Tammy Duckworth said of the situation, “ this is how one usually looks when you are awarded the Purple Heart. Nothing easy about it.”
His statements with regard to the Purple Heart are more in line with the kind of ableism that disabled people encounter every day, i.e. “You’re so lucky. I wish I could park so close to the building.” It may seem totally innocuous to the person saying it, but it comes off as being completely ignorant of what that individual goes through on a daily basis — physical and/or psychological pain that doesn’t just go away because you’ve got a decent parking spot or a neat medal. No one wants to live a life that can have so much suffering. They don’t want their injury or their disease to make them the butt of jokes, into some sort of media spectacle, or turned into inspiration porn.
Like most people, veterans and civilians with disabilities want to be seen as normal human beings. Trump’s actions have shown that he doesn’t see either community that way. He sees disabled people as some sort of puppet in his almost theatrical campaign.
By attempting to flaunt his compliance with the law, he has renewed interest in his past violations of ADA and showing that he has no idea what the law means — not only for the disabled, but for businesses like his. When he brags about spending millions of dollars on ramps and says that he’s a “tremendous fan of disabled people”, he is showing just how out of touch he is with the disabled community. The best way for him to handle the controversy with Kovaleski would have been to acknowledge what he did wrong and to apologize, not to double down or deny. It would have been better to say that he is at least attempting to comply with a law, rather than trying to take sole credit for making things more accessible.
Donald Trump may think that he’s a friend to people with disabilities, but he’s not. He’s not even someone that we can consider as an acquaintance. He’s the kind of person that we learn to try to avoid because he will only use us to benefit his own needs, and he will never try to actually help give us a hand up in this world. Until his buildings are fully compliant, his disabled employees are treated with respect, he stops lying about his contributions to and concern for the disabled community, he stops trying to keep charity contributions from organizations helping people with disabilities, and he stops denigrating people for having disabilities, he shouldn’t even try to suggest that he cares for the disabled. It’s obvious that he doesn’t.